Taris West moves to Los Angeles on November 12, 1966, the very day of the Sunset Riots. Taris, his brother, and cousin, who make up a band called Go West, find themselves in the middle of the battle between teenagers and police. Although Taris is an eyewitness to the riot taking place on the corner of Sunset and Laurel Canyon, he is also eager to explore the mythic hills that are the home to many music legends.
Soon he’s rubbing shoulders with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Frank Zappa, Sonny and Cher, to name a few. There’s also a slightly mysterious former Air Force officer named Winter, who’s moved to Laurel Canyon to pursue his own musical fortune. Winter is incredible, but he also has a weirdo roommate who puts off everybody he meets. There’s also something strange going on in Winter’s Laurel Canyon house. Somebody keeps bumping and scraping in the middle of the night and a mural above his bed keeps getting additions as Winter and Taris sleep.
Can these two broken men find acceptance, or even love, as history evolves right in front of their eyes? Can they make music together? And what about the burning civil rights issues of the day? Can a little canyon help mend bridges across the universe?
As Frank Zappa would say, “Laurel Canyon is freaky, man.”
Genres: Gay/Nostalgic Contemporary (1960s-Era)/The Arts
Heat Level: 3
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (27k words)
Read a short excerpt...
...The line for a table seemed to stretch forever. It was like a sea of leather jackets and stovepipe pants, the faint scent of patchouli oil invading the more pleasant aroma of coffee. I couldn’t help thinking, Mom would love it here. The packed tables were filled with people putting away food like they were going to the chair. Just as we were about to give up and try someplace else, I locked eyes with a guy across the room. His hair was dark and not as long as mine—which reached my shoulders—but curled nicely below his ears. His piercing green eyes mesmerized me.
He beckoned us over to his table for four, which he was sharing with a couple of guys. A couple vacated the seats beside them. We scrambled to thread our way through the countless kids clustered around tables. When we reached the dark-haired guy, he stood and grinned at me.
“Hey, man, you’re welcome to share our table.” He shook my hand after I’d propped my guitar and duffle bag against the wall. “I’m Winter. James Winter, but I just go by Winter.” I liked his name. Ray, Will, and I introduced ourselves. “This is Brent.” He pointed to a guy with chestnut hair. He had the weirdest cut I’d ever seen, like he’d trimmed it himself with his eyes closed. Brent’s bushy beard needed some attention, and his T-shirt had seen cleaner days. The fearsome tattoos on his forearms were intimidating. He nodded to us and kept strumming his guitar.
Winter’s other friend said nothing. His face looked familiar. He seemed older than the rest of us, with his carefully combed mop of hair and a fake fur vest. I noticed the sheriff’s badge pinned to it. Although he had a huge smile on his face, there was fear in his eyes.
“This is Sonny.” Winter gestured to his friend.
“Nice to meet you.” Sonny shook our hands, but kept glancing around. I tried to place him and wondered if he was a politician. He gave off an air of authority, but couldn’t have been a real cop. The choice of the sheriff’s badge struck me as off considering the tension in the coffee shop and out on the street.
A harried-looking waitress came over to us. “What’ll you have?” she asked me.
“Coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich. Please.”
“Me, too,” Ray echoed.
“And me.” Will winked at her.
“You’re easy to please.” The waitress winked back at Will, who seemed to spark to life. He stared after her. Boy, he was getting over Jessamine fast.
A very pretty, serious-looking girl with dead-straight, long black hair parted down the middle, a luminous smile and a face full of pimples joined our table.
“Hi!” she said, taking a seat on Sonny’s lap. She, too, wore a fake fur vest and her black and white striped bell-bottom pants were the widest I’d ever seen.
Winter laughed. “And this is Sonny’s better half, Cher...”